Do Bollywood stars shy away from doing biopics of poets and authors?

Hollywood has long list of movies made on the lives of poets, authors and writers

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As we gear up for Nawazuddin Siddiqui to get into the shoes of Saadat Hasan Manto, have you ever wondered why biopics based on the lives of authors and poets has never been the flavour of the season? Why most Bollywood biggies shy away from films based on the lives of legends likes of Sahir Ludhyanvi, Amrita Pritam or Kamala Das?

Bollywood stars including Aamir Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Sushant Singh Rajput and Priyanka Chopra have the gone extra mile to do films based on the life of sport legends, Mahavir Phogat (Dangal), Milkha Singh (Bhag Milkha Bhaag), Dhoni- The Untold Story (MS Dhoni) and Mary Kom (Mary Kom) respectively, thereby, indicating that biopics are very much in demand.

Hollywood too has inspired us with a long list of biopics that were both critically acclaimed as well as box office hits. Who can forget venerated poet Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) wooing Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the film Shakespeare In Love? But then the directors took the poetic liberty to base the film on an imaginary love story. Such an idea would create furore had it been attempted in India.

In fact, if reports are to be believed there is talk of a biopic based on the highly acclaimed Persian poet Jalaluddin-Rumi. Oscar-winning writer Dave Franzoni of Gladiator fame was reportedly signed on to pen the script. And the producers hoped Leonardo DiCaprio would play the 13th century Muslim poet.

But if we delve further into the subject it appears that the film fraternity in India, Bollywood in particular, is yet to warm out to poets and authors. At least, that is what it seems, especially with Vidya Balan backing out of a film based on the life of author Kamala Das. Besides, there seems to be no news about Sonakshi Sinha’s much publicised film, which was supposed to be based on Amrita Pritam’s life. Also, there seems to be a shroud of mystery surrounding Shah Rukh Khan playing the famous poet, Sahir Ludhiyanvi.

The reluctance of Bollywood biggies to even talk on the subject is evident from the fact that repeated calls and messages made to the actors, seeking their view on the same, went unanswered.

The obvious reason for this could perhaps be assumed that portraying the life of an author or poet is not an easy task. “Making biopics are not easy. It involves lots of money. Recreating an era gone by needs a lot of minute detailing. It is a tough task to achieve,” shared actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, recounting his experience of shooting for his film based on legendary folk singer Lalan Fakir. Besides, the stress is not just on their outward appearance, a lot of finesse is required to portray the nuances of a creative mind.

And it is not just the money that is the issue the subject too needs careful handling. “I spent three months in Aligarh shooting for the film based on Majaz. But, when I saw the film at the post production stage, I wasn’t very pleased with it. Film is a director’s medium. So what you get in the end is how the director has visualised it,” pointed out actor Priyanshu Chatterjee who played the titular role in the film. Majaz was promoted by lyricist Javed Akhtar who is related to the legendary Urdu poet. Well known ghazal singer Talat Aziz had composed the music. Despite the positive news surrounding the film it was released only in a few territories and the majority of curious cinegoers were left wondering what went wrong.

Naseeruddin Shah had gone on record to say that commercial filmmakers should not touch serious subjects and should not be making biopics on legends. “They ruin the film completely,” he had said in an interview.

The veteran actor, however, had essayed the role of legendary Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib in a television serial, produced by Gulzar.

Echoing the sentiment of Naseeruddin Shah, retired Aligarh Muslim University professor and producer of Majaz, Madi Ur Sherwani said, “The film may not have been the way we had visualised it initially. The fact that we had to release it hurriedly also played a part. But that has not deterred me. I am fascinated by the creative thought process of our literary greats. I will make more films on them. But this time I am going to direct them myself.”

Well, here’s hoping the films will be as memorable as the legendary poets or authors’ works have been.

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